Rene Lopez’s last album, E.L.S. (short for Electric Latin Soul, a term he coined to describe the sound he had been working on), landed at number 12 on this site’s Best of 2011 list. Influenced by salsa, boogaloo, hip hop, meringue and old school hip hop, the album sounds warmly familiar — the sounds you’d likely hear coming from car stereos and apartments in Jackson Heights, Corona, Spanish Harlem, the Lower East Side (pre 1995 or so), and of the South Bronx. It’s a loving homage to the universally beloved sounds of Latino New York but with a modern re-interpreation through some playfully inventive genre mashing. And the material which often employs huge, club-banging beats manages to swing and saunter with an amiable charming, swagger much like Lopez himself.
Over the past year or so, Lopez with his backing band has been writing and recording material for his latest EP, Let’s Be Strangers Again which officially dropped while I was in Germany (and much of the material on the EP will hopefully appear on his next full-length album.) Although the new material possess some familiar elements as it still draws from the salsa and meringue of his youth and of his late father, Rene Lopez, Sr., it also manages to represent a change in direction sonically for the younger Lopez. Simply put the sound is less electric, more soul.
If you were familiar with Rene Lopez’s previous work, you’ll notice that the arrangements on compositions such as “Midnight Love” are stripped down to just live instrumentation – in other words vocals, guitar, bass, drums, percussion, horns, flute, etc. making the material on the EP seemingly more straightforward. Seemingly is the key word here, as Lopez’s compositions still manage to deftly blur genre lines; however, it’s much more subtle as the material owes a great debt to 70s soul, Brazilian music, salsa and meringue.
In the case of “Midnight Love,” it’s an incredibly sensual, seductive song – full of a knowing adult carnality. It’s grown and sexy, folks and it’s the sort of song you’d want the DJ to play when you’re trying to bring that fine thing home tonight.